These Habits Will Immediately Improve How You Work

All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” — Aristotle

Habits create routine, and most of us run our lives by some sort of routine. Habits define who we are, what we do and what we get to accomplish in life and career. Maybe what you always set you to accomplish daily, weekly or monthly is a crucial to your business or career: or maybe it isn’t, but it has to be done anyway.

The important thing is that there is always a better or better still a smarter way to get things things. You should be getting the best return on your time and resources.

Everyone wants to to do their daily tasks faster and better without wasting too much time. The good news is: there are always smarter ways to accomplish more for less. Here is what you can do to be better and smarter at what you do at work.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” — Steve Jobs

Working better, not harder can and probably will make you healthier and happier. Working longer does not guarantee financial security, it’s a stressful way to live with consequences. You could do better or better still work shorter but still be productive.

Bertrand Russell, the English philosopher, was not a fan of work. In his 1932 essay, “In Praise of Idleness”, he reckoned that if society were better managed the average person would only need to work four hours a day. Such a small working day would “entitle a man to the necessities and elementary comforts of life.

In the morning you have the best chance to complete your task faster and better. Just get something done and tick it off the to-do list for the day.

“How you begin your morning often sets the tone and your attitude for the day. It can also derail or direct your focus. If you remain committed to good morning work habits, you won’t fall prey to feeling unproductive and distracted at the end of the day or week.” says Lynn Taylor, a workplace expert and author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant; How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.

Every given day, most people have one major to-do that’s highest priority. But when you’ve got the whole day stretching out ahead of you, it’s easy to put it off until after you get your coffee, check our email, or go to that meeting.

According to Mark Twain, you should “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

Author Brian Tracy calls this “eating your frog,” quoting Mark Twain. He recommends that you complete the most unwanted task (task you’re most likely to procrastinate) you can think of for that day (= the frog). Define the task in the evening of the previous day.

Start off each day with the seemingly difficult tasks and wind down with less stressful tasks to close the day. I like the feeling of crossing things off. It makes me feel productive, so I have a to-do list and I cross them off each day.

“Challenge yourself with something you know you could never do, and what you’ll find is that you can overcome anything” — Anonymous.

Consistent productivity will even make you more productive with a positive sense of accomplishment. Increase the pace, not the hours at which you work and maintain that momentum until you get things done.

Start small. The smaller the better, because habit change is difficult, and trying to take on too much is a recipe for disaster. Want to exercise? Start with just 5–10 minutes. Want to wake up earlier? Try just 10 minutes earlier for now. Or consider half habits.

Write it down. Just saying you’re going to change the habit is not enough of a commitment. You need to actually write it down, on paper. Write what habit you’re going to change.

Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones. — Benjamin Franklin

If you want to get one thing done at work today, get it on paper. Better still, write it on a sticky note and and place it where you can see it, to remind you of the task.

J.T. O’Donnell, Founder & CEO of CAREEREALISM.com and a LinkedIn influencer recommends the following from his 10 Things To Do Every Workday post.

  1. Read something related to your industry.
  2. Check in with each team member on their progress.
  3. Review your top three goals for your company that are focused on its growth.
  4. Identify and execute one task to support each of your top three goals.
  5. Post five valuable pieces of content on all my major social media accounts.

Progress is the ultimate motivator. Know your motivations, and be sure they’re strong. Write them down in your plan. You have to be very clear why you’re doing this, and the benefits of doing it need to be clear in your head.

Set up public accountability. Blog about it, post on a forum, email your commitment and daily progress to friend or co-worker, post a chart up at your office. When we make it public — not just the commitment but the progress updates — we don’t want to fail.

Don’t set yourself up for failure. Take a few minutes break: Get up, go for a walk or do something completely different to recharge. Work in possibly 90 minute blocks with 10 minute intervals to recover and refuel.

Stop looking for a perfect time. Are you waiting for a perfect time to do that task or start that project? There can never be a best time to do anything. The perfect time is now. You may have convinced yourself that now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons.

But come tomorrow, you will still give yourself another excuse. Just get on with it. Re-clarify your goals (get rid of your fuzzy goals). What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

According to Jim Stone (Personal Productivity Consultant, Developer, Philosopher), when you have fuzzy goals, you are likely to think things like this:

1. “Why am I doing this project?”

2. “What should the final product look like?”

3. “How will people actually benefit from this?”

4. “Should I work on this now, or is something else more important?

Some of his strategies for dealing with fuzzy goals.

1. Ask yourself why you’re doing the project. When you do this, you will come up with some purpose.Then ask yourself why you’re pursuing that purpose. And keep doing that until your project is set within the context of your whole life.

2. After all this, it might turn out you don’t have a good reason to work on this project, and that you need to work on another project.

3. Work out the relative importance of all your projects, so you can make sure you’re working on your most important project.

Measurement can improve how you work. Take time to analyze how you work and how productive your strategies have been over the week. Can you do better in less hours.

What is not working and why is it not working? What are you doing wrong? Do more of what works and less of what steals your time. Reward yourself when you achieve your task as scheduled.

Say no to extra commitments. Identify what’s important to you every day or week, along with the “perfect day”. Once you know what to focus on to be productive, you need to start saying “No” to things that aren’t on your important list, and that are standing in the way of the perfect day. It just takes a call or email, but it’s one of the most difficult things for a lot people.

This post was excepted from my book: Building Smarter Habits: The Daily Habits of Insanely Productive People That Stick

The author is the founding editor at AllTopStartups (tools, resources and ideas for launching and growing a startup).

He is also the curator at Postanly, a FREE weekly newsletter that delivers the most insightful and trending long form posts from top publishers.